Is All Fair In Love And Tabloid Journalism?
While Alice rounds out her vacation at the BlogHer conference, this week’s column is in the hands of Liz Gumbinner of Mom-101.
I have never been a big tabloid reader.
Oh, sure I can weigh in on an Olsen Twins debate at a cocktail party and I jones for an occasional CELEBRITIES! THEY PICK GUM OFF THEIR SHOES JUST LIKE US! fix on long plane rides. But mostly, I am That Woman, cozied up in the pedicure chair with the latest issue of Newsweek. As I understand it, my actions violate some sort of pedicure law, but I’m a rebel that way.
I do love Vanity Fair however, which serves up its celebrity dish with tasteful serif type, a judicious restraint in the number of exclamation points, and a side order of world-class fashion photography.
In other words, it helps me justify my gawking of the fancy people.
Reading VF’s recent interview with Angelina Jolie, I was extremely taken with a comment she made about celebrities today: “In my father’s generation, the product was 80 percent of what you were putting into the world, and your personal life was 20 percent. It now seems that 80 percent of the product I put out is silly, made-up stories and what I’m wearing.”
Case in point: I was totally wondering who made the dress she was in on the facing page.
As I came to the end of the magazine with my toenails not quite ready for the first slathering of Paris in the Pink, I did what anyone would do in my situation – I browsed US Weekly over the shoulder of the woman sitting next to me.
Holy celebrity trainwreck, batman.
The magazine, not surprisingly, featured the same stories that dominated the news this week. And by news I mean not news at all. Each headline revealed some juicy eye-catcher about Christie/Peter, Madonna/Guy, Alex/Cynthia, Madonna/Alex, Peter/His Hand, followed by lurid descriptions of Divorce! Anger! Betrayal! All courtesy of that ubiquitous source, “a friend of the couple…”
(Here I must just stop and say don’t worry, this is not leading to the overdone “how can we care about celebrities when there is a war going on?” discussion. Which – really. Please. I think everyone’s entitled to their diversions even, and perhaps especially, in serious times.)
Suddenly I felt very sad. For these couples. For their public humiliation over private matters. And most especially for their families. Because in each of these cases, each of these high-profile, PG-13, A-list divorces, there are young children involved.
My sense of empathy has increased a hundredfold since having children of my own. I can’t even watch SVU any longer, to say nothing of all those evening news magazine stories about abducted children and pedophilia cults. It’s all just too heart-wrenchingly painful for me. Similarly, when I think Christie Brinkley’s ten year-old daughter stumbling onto a tabloid headline describing her daddy’s $3,000 a month internet porn habit and penchant for 18 year-old girls, I want to run to each and every newsstand in the five boroughs and set the papers on fire. (Of course I’d like to set his genitals on fire too, but I digress.)
If you think about it, none of these stories are relevant to us, nor do they affect our lives in any tangible ways. But they do affect the children. It makes me feel sometime as if our hunger to know all trumps their need not to know all.
Indeed there are some celebs who I think invite the scrutiny, even revel in it. Madonna’s history of attention-grabbing inspired New York Magazine to describe her alleged A-Rod affair as having “the air of a publicity coup.”
If celebrities don’t draw any lines, certainly we can’t be expected to adhere to any either.
But what about when they do? What about when we hear reports of celebs begging the paparazzi, please, I’m with my kid…just leave us alone…
There’s a lot of talk about a journalist’s obligation to famous people when they’re parents. But what’s our obligation as consumers? Do we have one?
Do you feel any sort of parent-to-parent, no-lister-to-A-lister imperative not to support this stuff? Or is all fair when you’re a bold-faced name – an implicit agreement to take the bad with the good, the intense scrutiny with the red carpet invites. Maybe it’s a deal you make with the devil.
That devil being the media. That devil, sometimes being us.